Here goes. Checking in.
My parents used to check in on me when I was a child. And up until I was a bit older than I'd have liked, if I'm honest. At the time it was mostly just about if I was safe and still where I said I'd be.
Over the last few years, in the wake of wellness 'checking in' has become more synonymous with taking a distinct moment of mindfulness or introspection and listening to your own body and emotions. Checking in that you are not running away with an opportunity that doesn't actually suit you, or being ground down by this late stage capitalist millstone to beyond your recognition. Checking in that you are surviving, at least.
So I am checking in with you --
Take this read as a moment to emotionally check in with yourself and if/when you have and want to carry on, I will update you on where I am and if I am still safe.
My playlist has changed a lot recently. I listen to a lot more current punk/rock/ish music. Don't get me wrong, classic rock, prog rock, emo classics, all big favourites of my shuffle for years. But the last year it's been a bit more Idles, The Oozes, Loco by DakhaBrakha, Måneskin, and Blind Channel.
The more savvy amongst you will notice that those last 2 are both Eurovision favourites. Yes, a significant portion of my music taste comes directly from and is inspired by Eurovision. This symphony of camp, theatre, and vocal skill is a phenomena and, in my experience, people who put it down for being 'too much' or 'silly' are themselves pretty childish.
I don't know if I'm angrier or tired-er to have changed musical lanes. It does feel like maybe this was always the music I wanted to listen to more of but never felt like I was allowed to, personally and societally. The challenges of navigating this world socialised or perceived as female whilst having an interest in anything, are well documented.
But it also feels like if I listened to some of my usual evocative picks I would actually disintegrate. Wonderful Life by Hurts came on as I was writing this and I had to purposefully concentrate on not crying whilst having full body goosebumps. This song didn't use to hit that hard.
I definitely am both angrier and tired-er. I'm fatigued by Covid and our abusive, emperors-new-clothes government of corrupt eugenicists. I'm angrier that all the things I have been fighting for and against have been further exposed and still they remain in power. I am angry that more has been exposed that I was privileged enough not to see before. I'm exhausted that the challenge seems insurmountable and invigorated by the intersectional work of so many excellent activists.
I'm tired and I miss seeing and hugging my friends. I'm tired of the view from my window and I'm tired of the mental energy it takes to go outside. I'm tired of this ridiculous weather and the propaganda that the climate crisis is exclusively our fault for using plastic straws when the ocean is on fire.
Just this week the government stripped what tiny societal responsibility they had taken and announced, despite advice to the contrary, that people will be able to choose whether to wear masks soon. Masks don't work as well on you if the other person isn't wearing one. The same way as you not drinking and driving doesn't help you much if the other person is and crashes into you. But that's not a personal choice.
I'm not saying criminalise not wearing a mask, there is rampant over-criminalisation in this country already. And fines are a joke. To those who can afford it, that just becomes the price of not wearing a mask. I am saying that abandoning all leadership responsibility is hardly out of character but still grossly negligent for this government.
So yes, I am both angrier and tired-er and the music that I can bear to listen to, evokes something manageable in me, and catharses the outside world, has changed.
My understanding of myself has changed too.
Like a lot of people over lockdown(s) I have experienced a couple of personal revelations. The number of people using they/she pronouns has rocketed, if you are on the same side of TikTok as me. I was already out as non-binary but I have not been spared.
I read the Lesbian Masterdoc. I have not entirely processed reading the Lesbian Masterdoc and have no intentions of deconstructing the entirety of my compulsory heterosexuality (as a part of my bisexuality) any time soon. But I do now know it's there and maybe I'll change my Tinder settings next time I re-download it for entertainment and validation.
I got diagnosed as neurodivergent. A bit obvious to anyone with any knowledge outside of 'boys who can't sit down' but them's the breaks when you aren't a cishet white boy. Fortunately for me though, the paternalising of 'women' throughout health--'care' doesn't extend to the racism and misogynoir it does for black people perceived as women.
I'm currently exploring medication for my more monotonous work days. Medication has heaps of pros and cons and I'm not a proponent either way for anyone else. Ideally I wouldn't be medicated to be able to send emails and I hope not to need to be one day. Not because I change but because I have the freedom to make the rest of my life as interesting and stimulating as some of my life is already
Unfortunately getting paid, particularly through a pandemic and in a rural area, comes a lot more reliably in an employed position. I'm balancing my choices at the moment and spent a lot of time considering this.
If you or someone you know is taking, or considering taking medication for neurodivergence or mental health, know that it is not a light or simple decision. There is a lot to consider and sometimes your doctor isn't best placed to work through all those factors with you. The final conversation is definitely with them though and if you can't have that conversation with your prescribing doctor, request a different one.
This happens more often than you might think and they have far too much to do to be distressed at you requesting a swap. Eventually you will find out what is best for you, regardless of anyone else's expectations.
Read the side effect information and keep a diary of anything that happens, even if it seems unrelated. If you can manage this, even a bit, your doctor and you will thank you in the future.
In other news, I passed my driving test.
A crucial milestone when you live kind-of-in-the-country and even more so when the already unreliable public transport is cut to half its service by the aforementioned corrupt government and a disappointingly limp Tory council. Driving becomes a bit angst ridden though when the planet's climate is heading to end humanity and you can't afford individual green transport.
(Which doesn't even totally exist yet because of the polluting manufacture process of electric vehicles.)
My lessons were initially delayed because of a disappearing instructor. Then again because of Covid. Then my test was cancelled because of Lockdown 3 and then my instructor changed cars. It was entirely ridiculous but we got there in the end.
Talking of learning new skills; I joined the boards of 2 arts organisations, 1 county wide and 1 venue based. It's been a veritable festival of Zoom meetings attending these virtual boards alongside work briefings. None quite like Handforth Parish Council though.
It's good to be putting my law degree to use again and bringing some Zillenial knowledge and experience to arts strategy, accessibility, and representation. In a similar vein, I run a local activism IG account bringing together all the information from different protest groups that isn't getting to young people.
Yes, I'm on screens a lot. Yes, my posture is crap.
I'm working on that one.
I put on weight. I've been putting on weight slowly over the last 4-5 years anyway but recently new stretch marks have been appearing and unlike the 'acceptable' stretch-marked body, I have no baby to show for them.
If you've read my piece on the colour blue you'll know I have a penchant for language and etymology. I have been well aware for many years that women, white women particularly as sizeism is rooted in racism, are required to shrink. We who are perceived, and have been socialised as female are force-fed shrink tactics in our language, our body, and our being as soon as we enter this world. And are endowed with these judgements even before we are born.
Think of the common response to a baby born with a vulva being over 9lbs compared to a baby born with a penis.
In the way we talk about becoming smaller, lighter, and shrinking it's clear we know what is happening. 'Lose weight'. We're losing something. I can't think of anything else that is always a positive to lose.
Losing is generally a bad thing. Losing things, games, friends, losing your mind, your sense of time. Even losing your inhibitions becomes a bad thing if it's too much. But not with weight. Not even in the case of eating disorders. Blythe Baird puts this point incredibly in her poem.
We are conditioned to shrink and lose ourselves, not in support of health but to the point of hurting people. We lose our strength, our personality, energy, friends, hair, nails, teeth. Dignity. But this is all better than daring to be fat.
Fat is a descriptor. I use it as such. The pejorative notion that there is some morality to size is racist and oppressive. Fatphobia/fatmisia/anti-fatness/sizeism is systemic and there is a lot of reading (learning) to do if this is new to you.
What is fat anyway? The BMI was made-up exclusively based on white men and bares almost no resemblance to health or medicine and none to women or POC. It's a common laughable notion that almost every athlete would come out as 'obese' on the BMI despite being superfit. But doesn't that illustrate the point?
This is just part of the reason why 'obese' is beginning to be seen as a slur. Especially in response to dehumanising efforts to fight the 'obesity epidemic'. As if having a large body is an infectious disease and should be 'cured'? Obviously regardless of social factors like... poverty that could be eradicated with proper use of already recovered taxes?!
More than this, even if you take the BMI as relevant, people's health (outside of chronic conditions and disabilities) is best and most consistent at the lower end of 'overweight' than anywhere in 'healthy'. And beyond this bracket heart disease, COPD, blood pressure issues and others are no more common in people with large bodies than equivalent people in small bodies. The size/health equivalency is false propaganda funded by the weight-loss and diet industry.
But you can't exclude chronic conditions and disability. People are human. Literally. To obsess over some 'perfect specimen of health' is eugenic. This is textbook casual eugenics.
It is proven, and has been since around the 60s that what we eat has a tiny impact on reducing the size of our bodies. In fact dieting results in eventual weight gain years later a huge proportion of the time. The largest factors in the size of our bodies are genetics and environment.
If we were ready for a full and frank conversation about this there is a lot to be said for disordered eating and the diet industry in 'perfectly acceptable' 'healthy' practices. Not to mention the barriers to recovering from eating disorders and body dysmorphia in refusing to break out of the 'but fat is still bad' framework of thinking.
Health At Every Size is a movement that is having this conversation and challenging nutritionists, trainers, medics, and individuals to consider their health and wellbeing in their mind and body whatever their mental or physical abilities, on that day or every day. Regardless of size.
Fat Liberation is on the agenda again. Some people are calling for 'body acceptance'. But I prefer fat liberation. 'Acceptance' is too vague and a bit "please sir, I want some more." This crap needs liberating. Intersectionally of course. None of this is successful in isolation
Alongside this I have been reading and working on Radical Self-Love (Sonya Renee Taylor); the rebellious act of removing your wellbeing and worth from being valued exclusively through the lens of capitalism. You'll know already, hopefully, that rest is a radical act. If you don't, have a nap. You deserve one.
So, dismantling my internalised fatphobia and confronting my childhood trauma as 'the fat kid' has been liberating, terrifying, and exhausting. And is a work in progress. I can't control the way people look at and respond to me and it can be crushing. I can't control medics that are crap at their jobs and won't listen to me or take any notice of nuances in my experience and presume 'large body' means 'of course you have unexplained pain, you should force your body to lose weight, cause more issues and only then will I listen to the first one'.
I can't control the systemic sizeism of the world around me and for now am grateful that I come in on the border of small-fat and mid-fat and don't face worse treatment. This is not a great outlook, obviously the ideal is to breakdown sizeism entirely.
What I do know is that I genuinely like my body. I have a voice in my head, it's not mine, it's trauma and conditioning and advertising but it exists and I have to shut it up sometimes. But I like the space I take up. I like my belly and I'm learning to like my arms. I like my face and my cheeks that are chubbier than when I was 'prettiest'.
I don't want to be pretty for a white supremacist, paedophilic ideal.
My body falters sometimes, it's too bendy and a bit misaligned, and I forgive it and support my neurodivergent brain when I am forced to slow down. It's not easy but it's a lot better than self-loathing. And it's refusal to be forced into a cog shaped life for a capitalist machine.
I don't know what I'll be but I won't be that.
So between Covid, anger, tiredness, new music, new skills, new roles, and radical learning and fat liberation I have not put out much creatively. Hence updating you with this. But I am safe, enough.
I hope you're all keeping as well as you can. Contact your local Citizens Advice if you are struggling in any way. Food banks are not to be ashamed of and, if nothing else, they will likely have contacts of other organisations you didn't know about.
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